While photographing and writing about cholla cactus, I’ve primarily focused on the plants with their vibrant magenta flowers. These were the first variety of cholla I ever encountered while living in New Mexico. At that time, I was not aware there were other varieties.
With their cup shaped flowers, cholla can vary in color depending on the species. This can include flowers that can appear in shades of yellow, white, pale pink, magenta and even green.
I’ve encountered several of these different species via visits to different botanic gardens in both New Mexico and Colorado that have dedicated cactus gardens. Should you ever find yourself on the Western Slope, the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens in Grand Junction has a rather extensive cactus garden. Bummer when I was there I had just missed the cactus bloom cycle!
Snow Leopard Cholla Cactus Flowers
Closer to home and in the public gardens I frequent for photos, the other stand out cholla species I have direct access to is the Snow Leopard cholla. With its closely clustered long white spines and bright yellow flowers, it’s quite a show stopper when in full bloom.
Often blooming beside the magenta cholla flowers, Snow Leopard cholla draw you in for photo ops. However, the temptation to get too close can have adverse effects!
I’ve made the mistake of unintentionally leaning back onto one of these plants only to have my lower back covered in white spines!
Let’s just say It was an unpleasant reminder to keep my distance. But no harm no foul. It has not stopped me from wanting to photograph these bright yellow flowers. FYI, the flowers are very short-lived with a limited window for capturing any decent photos.
Snow Leopard cholla flowers – while also cup shaped – tend to be much smaller in size than their magenta brethren. The petals are also quite thick with a waxy texture. The plants do not seem to be as tall – but rather spread out closer to the ground. Some of the plants at the gardens are quite expansive. This may just be the growing conditions at the local gardens?? Who’s to say if in the wild so to speak they get taller?
Either way, Snow Leopard cholla even when not in bloom can make for an interesting backdrop of textures. When other flowers grow by them early in spring, with their long white spines has made for some unique photos.
Bee Frenzy on Their Yellow Flowers
Like the larger magenta cholla flowers, bees go crazy for these yellow ones! It can get a little crazy as they quickly fly from one flower to another.
But as I noted in the previous post, the bees that visit Snow Leopard cholla flowers are more akin to those that visit prickly pear cactus flowers. They are not the honey bees that you see on the magenta flowers.
Perhaps the Bee book I received as a Christmas gift may offer some insight and shed some light on this matter…
Stop and Observe
The more common Cholla do tend to take center stage. With their clumps of erect long stems and brilliant magenta flowers, they stand out for sure. But the lesser-known Snow Leopard cholla is a looker too.
With its silvery-white, dense spines and bright yellow flowers, the Snow Leopard cholla cactus is another unusual beauty to take in. Just don’t make the mistake of getting too close! Otherwise you WILL be plucking spines out of various body parts!
This Allium seed head acting as a backdrop in this photo made for yet another rather “textural” image.
Like all the cactus flowers I photograph, I remain in awe and wonder of their odd beauty. How Nature creates such incredible flowers from such harsh looking plants 🙂